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Nothing says comfort food better than mac and cheese and this Southwest Jalapeno Mac and Cheese Bake is one more reason to love it! With a crunchy bread crumb topping, this is loaded with bacon and diced jalapeño for a fantastic flavor punch. Great to serve at BBQs, picnics and family gatherings!
Jalapeño Mac and Cheese Bake
Mac & Cheese for me is Comfort Food Number One. It’s the cheesy, warm pasta love that gets me every time. But unlike the boxed version with the orange powder, I found it to be a simple meal to make from scratch.
And I get to put in it exactly what I want. More sharp cheddar? Sure. Want it creamier? Sure, thin down the béchamel sauce and add more milk or cream.
In this recipe I decided to make up a batch of my favorite pasta and take it to the next level with some spice, some different cheeses and our good friend bacon.
After I made it the first time, I thought it would be great baked with a crunchy topping, too.
How to make Jalapeño Mac and Cheese Bake
- Cook butter and flour with some milk to make a bechamel sauce. Add cheddar cheese and paprika, stirring until all cheese is melted.
- Render bacon until crisp. Remove and crumble when cooled.
- Cook your pasta, but don’t rinse it. Add macaroni to the sauce and continue cooking.
- Add cooked, crumbled bacon and chopped jalapeños and stir to incorporate with the mac and cheese.
- Pour the mac and cheese mixture into a buttered 8×8 pan.
- Add the crumbled queso fresco cheese on top (optional) and buttered bread crumbs.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and firm up a little. Cut into squares and serve.
I served the other day with some Pulled Pork Barbecue, but found myself eating it all by itself the next day for lunch. Pasta, bacon and cheese for lunch, yahoo!
This is so good and I loved the queso fresco cheese mixed with the sharp cheddar cheese. The jalapeños add a nice touch of heat and this all works beautifully.
Feel free to mix and match whatever are your favorites cheeses. I’ve even used crumbled goat cheese for an extra tangy flavor.
The crunchy Panko and butter topping crisped and browned perfectly and the little poke of flavor from the cilantro comes through, too. Enjoy!
Jalapeno Mac and Cheese Bake
- 8 oz elbow macaroni
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt and pepper each
- 4 oz queso fresco crumbled
- 8 cooked bacon strips chopped
- 1/2 cup pickled jalapeño slices finely diced
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped
- In a large saucepan over medium low heat melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for several minutes until a golden brown and slowly whisk in the milk to avoid any lumps. Add the cheddar cheese, kosher salt, black pepper and paprika, constantly whisking until all cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.
- Cook elbow macaroni al dente (about 7 minutes) in heavily salted water and drain. Add macaroni, chopped bacon and jalapeños to cheese sauce and stir to incorporate completely.
- Pour the mac and cheese mixture into a buttered 8×8" or 9×9" pan and crumble queso fresco evenly over top.
- In a small bowl mix the Panko breadcrumbs, melted butter and chopped cilantro and crumble mixture on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and firm up a little. Cut into squares and serve. Top with more crumbled queso fresco if desired.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.